Saturday, April 18, 2015

Raritan Headwaters Association Stream Cleanup a Success

Raritan Headwaters Association held its 25th Annual Stream Cleanup today. Thirty three sites along the South Branch Raritan River, North Branch Raritan River, Raritan River and tributaries to these three great New Jersey waterways kept volunteers from throughout the region active for three hours this morning.

I volunteered at what was designated as Drake's Brook in Ledgewood, since I had never before visited the creek and wanted to have a look, shoot photos, and spot any wild trout as well as pick up trash. Copious volunteer turnout felt encouraging and hundreds of pounds of trash taken out leaves Canal Park in better condition. The area really appears clean and natural now.

Canal Park hosts remnant ditches once part of the Morris Canal. Back in the woods, I found stone structures which may have been part of the canal system, although Roxbury Township Historical Society hasn't marked them to give any wanderer certainty. Beautiful day to be in the woods and on a stream, the temperature climbed to about 70 before noon.

I did spot three wild trout, very sure rainbows. Each nine or 10 inches long, they scooted about together before dashing from view. Markings and fins distinguished them as trout, but before I could look closer, I couldn't get over feeling nonplussed that they were rainbows instead of browns. I searched other holes, but found no more. Water quality is not what I hoped for. Frankly, I felt surprise--and bliss--upon seeing the trout. The rocks have that ugly brown algae covering them, which indicates water purity that could be improved. Suds on the surface just below riffles indicates phosphorous in the water, I think. I've seen much purer stream water in New Jersey.

I hoped for better, but I was warned. I attended the Association's Stream Monitoring Conference this past December. From what I've gathered, the Canal Park area hosts Ledgewood Brook, which is renamed Drake's Brook just downstream. Ledgewood Brook currently has moderately impaired water quality and the suspicion centers on the dump in Roxbury Township, which has been a big news item as residents have been ill affected. The Association has plenty of evidence to suggest the stream should have much better water. The good news is that wherever the Association monitoring took place on Drake's Brook, the team provided evidence for a perfect score on water quality. I imagine the flow much further down has filtered out impurities a great deal.

Nevertheless, I can't imagine the water downstream of what I witnessed has the quality of, for example, the Dunnfield Creek in Warren County at the Delaware Water Gap. The Dunnfield is so well spring-fed that the deepest pools have a fresh, aquamarine coloration and perfect clarity. It could be embarrassing to confide the following, but it will really back up what I have to say about the Dunnfield's purity. An older friend told me back in the 1970's the Dunnfield's safe to drink. He demonstrated. I took his lead. By all the evidence, it seemed so. For years, I visited the stream trout fishing, hiking--and drinking from it, no purification tabs or boiling. I never have experienced any ill symptoms whatsoever and it tastes very clean. Then I became associated with professional naturalists and spilled the beans. They urged me never to do so again, but I might, though their concern is the possibility of an amoeba. It's clear the stream isn't safe to drink, though I think it's a wonder that a stream in New Jersey can be liberally imbibed with no ill effects, not that any guarantee against illness exists if I try again.

We once fished the Dunnfield many years ago on a trout Opening Day washout. Every stream in our purview raged muddy, and we sought a place that just might retain clarity, a smart move. Dunnfield Creek ran too high to fish effectively--flooded--yet the water remained clear. No, it hadn't the perfect clarity normally so appealing, yet no one would say it ran stained.

http://www.raritanheadwaters.org/
Further down this gulch are a few stone walls that may have functioned as part of the Morris Canal system.
Stone walls left, right and further back in the upper right, which possibly served the Morris Canal system. The Delaware and Raritan Canal flows into the Raritan River at New Brunswick to this day, and I think it's pretty cool that the lost Morris Canal ran in very close proximity to a South Branch Raritan River tributary. And this tributary Ledgewood or Drake's Brook (the brook is named Ledgewood closer to the source) runs within a fraction of a mile to the Black River headwaters, the Black River renamed the Lamington further below, flowing into the North Branch Raritan River down in Bedminster.





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